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Government & Politics

Police Consent Decree Monitor Reviewing Cleveland's Protest Response

The team overseeing Cleveland’s police reform agreement will review the department’s handling of local demonstrations prompted by the death of George Floyd.

Monitor Hassan Aden notified city leaders of the review in a memo dated June 17 and filed in federal court Thursday. The review will examine preparations for the protests, community engagement, arrests and uses of force, Aden wrote.

“This review is being conducted as part of our ongoing monitoring of the CDP (Cleveland Division of Police) and amid reports alleging excessive/unnecessary force, lack of preparation, command and control, appropriate personal protection equipment for officers as well as other concerns about the response by the CDP,” he wrote.

Thousands gathered in Downtown Cleveland May 30 to protest the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd died May 25 after officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

In Cleveland, police used pepper spray, tear gas and flash grenades during a confrontation outside the Justice Center with demonstrators, some of whom threw produce and water bottles at officers and the building. Although a police supervisor read a dispersal order, many demonstrators have since said they couldn’t hear it.

Through the afternoon and evening, people broke windows at businesses Downtown and took merchandise. Two police cars on West 3rd Street were set on fire. Police arrested more than 100 people during the demonstrations and in the following days, after Mayor Frank Jackson imposed a Downtown curfew.

In the memo this week, Aden requested documentation of dispersal orders, uses of force, mass arrests, violence and other incidents. He also asked for copies of emails and other correspondence from police commander during and after the protests.

“The significance of this moment and the fact that these demonstrations, directed at the police, have tested many central tenets of the consent decree: use of force, community engagement, search and seizure, bias-free policing, accountability, and supervision, make this review timely and relevant,” he wrote.

Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams have defended the city’s response to the demonstrations, saying officers acted professionally under difficult circumstances.

“Our men and women performed out there,” Williams said in a news conference the Sunday after the protests. “They put their lives on the line for this city, and anybody that criticizes that, if you want to come down here on a day like yesterday and take the helm, you’re more than welcome to do that.”

The monitoring team tracks Cleveland’s compliance with the consent decree on behalf of federal Judge Solomon Oliver. Cleveland signed on to the decree with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2015, after a DOJ report found extensive evidence of unconstitutional policing.

 

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